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Understanding other cultures is key to New Zealand making its food attractive to different markets around the world and to boosting our export earnings, according to a top industrial designer.

Matthijs Siljee, a Dutch professor at Massey University’s college of creative arts believes selling more of the same thing won’t achieve the Government’s goal of tripling the value of food exports by 2025. “Anyone can see it is madness to try and pump out even more milk powder. That is not where the value is going to come from.”
Instead he says the country needs to take a design-led approach to developing new food products.

While scientists can figure out different ways to develop a product such as isolating a protein which helps yoghurt taste better. He says it is good product design that will help that product be selected by consumers off a supermarket shelf in Singapore when they are faced by a raft of other choices.
Siljee says consumers are impacted by every detail — from how it appears on the shelf to what it feels like to unwrap and taste and smell it.

“It’s like a fabric you want to feel it and immerse yourself in it.”

But Siljee says it’s not always easy to nail down what appeals to certain consumers — especially when it comes to other countries. “You cannot make assumptions … You have to know the culture inside out to know what is wrong or right for a brand.” In New Zealand Siljee says one brand which has got it right is the home brand concept.

“In conversations with people it is seen as crass, dowdy or nasty but that is part of its success. We want to get it plain and straight and cheap. It is a very clever, deliberate type of branding.

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